Although the average voter may not spend much time thinking about redistricting - the process by which legislative districts are drawn and re-drawn based on things like population fluctuations and the changing demographics of communities - they remain an
Although the average voter may not spend much time thinking about redistricting – the process by which legislative districts are drawn and re-drawn based on things like population fluctuations and the changing demographics of communities – they remain an important part of our electoral process with tangible societal impacts.
The 2020 Census, delivered late due to COVID and the attempts of the Trump Administration to cut the process short entirely, has revealed data that, although Rhode Island’s population has grown overall from 10 years ago, many communities saw significant declines in population or had stagnant, near zero growth.
Warwick serves as an example of this fact. Although its overall population stayed basically flat, increasing by 151 residents from a decade ago, three of the five districts that lost the most voters are found in Warwick, which includes a 940-person loss from Rep. David Bennett’s District 20, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s District 33 (down 552 people), and State Democratic Party Chair Rep. Joseph McNamara’s District 19 (down 154 people). The only two Senate districts to lose population came from Warwick as well.
Warwick citizens will certainly form their own opinions as to why the populations of places like Johnston (up 799 residents) and Cranston (up 2,547 residents) are growing while Warwick is flatlining, but just as important as targeting a reason for the population change is recognizing the role voters play in holding their elected officials accountable for their constituents as those constituent bases change with the redistricting process.
No one will know what the new state legislative districts will look like until the redistricting process has moved forward, but it will be important for voters to learn about it. Knowing who your local representatives are is an important step in being an informed and engaged citizen. For districts that have gained or lost a significant amount of population, particularly.
Transparency, as will all government processes, will be key to ensure that the redistricting effort does not alienate or give inordinate amounts of power to any one political group or faction within any one party. True democracy comes when the most possible representatives of each community are at the table.
We look forward to seeing the recommendations put forth by the redistricting advisory commission, and hope that the public will be able to monitor the process from beginning to end, to ensure that the politically poisonous act of gerrymandering does not become an issue, even in a state as Democratically-dominated as Rhode Island.